Consistency is ANY goal that relates to performing a task or habit a certain # of times (frequency) over a designated time period. If you can't nail your consistency goals 90% of the time, it's time to re-assess and change them by either reducing the frequency or breaking down the task into a lower barrier task.
"Consistency is the key to success!".
Cool. Okay thanks. So... what does that mean exactly?
Consistency is important in reaching a goal because quality work + time = results. So how do we ensure that we are doing ENOUGH quality work in the RIGHT time frame? The answer to that is BE CONSISTENT.
At face value, we might assume that means:
"Do this thing every single day and you will succeed at it".
Hold on... if I did all the things I want to succeed at every single day, I'd never sleep. Plus, that's a lot of pressure for someone. If right off the bat we assume that doing something every day is the only way to be considered "consistent" then we're already setting ourselves up to fail. That's not how sustainable habit change works.
Is every-other day considered consistent? Maybe every M/W/F? Maybe once a week? What really is consistency anyway?
Here's how we deconstruct the idea of consistency:
Frequency over time period.
So a consistency goal might look like any of the following:
So how do we set a realistic consistency goal?
I train my Body Positive Fitness Alliance Affiliated Professionals to help their clients become consistent with a habit that will help them reach a goal with the following question:
What frequency (aka how many times in a given time period) do you think you can manage to nail 90% of the time?
For example, if I'm signing up a new client at Surf City Fit Club, I'll ask them the above question with regards to how many times per week they envision being able to joyfully attend.
The cool thing about consistency goals is that (and this might sound a bit oxymoronic), they can change quite often!
If every Sunday I wanted to set a different frequency goals for my workouts for the week ahead, that's totally fine! Each week in my life looks different than the last week in my life, but I'm making it a priority to workout AT ALL, and I'm defining the 90% likelihood of frequency I'll be able to hit for that designated time period, so this consistency goal is legit.
I could even argue that setting a goal one Sunday to not workout at all that week is consistent. Why? Because I'm consciously choosing to take that week off of working out (maybe life is very busy that week or maybe I'm nursing an injury or I'm ill)- and so that gives me a frequency of ZERO for that time period.
Now here's the key-
If you set a consistency goal and DON'T nail it 90% of the time then it is time to re-assess your goal. This is going to set you on the path toward sustainable habits. At this point, you have two options:
A) Reduce your frequency goal to fit better within your lifestyle
B) Break down the task to something smaller and try your consistency goal again.
The choice is yours.
With regards to "A", if you have a goal sometimes it is best to start with a frequency of ONE over a time period. Starting with a frequency of ONE is a very low barrier way to begin a habit. From there, we adjust the time period.
"I will ________ ONE TIME over the course of [whatever time period you're 90% certain you can make this happen in]."
Regarding "B", perhaps your "Go for a run after work every Tuesday and Thursday" isn't getting nailed 90% of the time and so it is time to re-assess this goal. Can we break down the task into a smaller task? Can we change it to "I will put on my gym sneakers after work every Tuesday and Thursday"?
If you can then nail that smaller task 90% of the time over a period of time, then the transition into the actual running part will be much lower barrier than it was before in your attempt to start this habit cold turkey.
In my interactive manual What Do I Do At The Gym? I purposely avoid telling the reader how many times per week they should do their workouts- but I give them the tools to set their own consistency goals based on their lifestyle. A great fitness habit is one that fits into your lifestyle easily- not one that requires a revamp of your lifestyle altogether.